Welcome to Heretic Friday, or as I prefer to call it, HERetic! Based on a recent reader survey, I have been spotlighting a different person or person(s) each week who champion for the equality of women in the world of church. It is my hope that the spirit of equality that reigns strong in these women (and men) will be a contagion at this blog. I am looking to infect as many people as I can with the idea that the unequal treatment of women in the church are acts of injustice and not just biblical mandates doled out in the name of God. The people I highlight in this weekly column are those brothers and sisters who won’t maintain a religious system marred by discrimination. I am inspired.
This week’s HERetic of the Week is Kathy Escobar of Arvada, Colorado. Kathy is an author, blogger, pastor, speaker, teacher, wife and mom and friend. I have known Kathy for about five years, having first met her at an Off the Map event in Seattle, WA that Jim Henderson used to organize. She instantly won me over with her disarming personality and be real persona. As I“ve gotten to know Kathy over the years, one of the things that I have come to admire the most about her is her dedication to serving women and helping women become empowered in who they are. In fact, right now Kathy is facilitating an online course titled, Ex-Good Christian Women’s Club. Registration is already closed, unfortunately, but here’s a link for your future reference. I’ll try to announce it next time she offers it!)
This is just the sort of thing Kathy does : she gathers together hurting women and helps them along on their journey of healing. God knows that there are many women limping along who have had their identity crippled by religious messaging. Kathy is fiercely committed to helping women recover their identity as human beings made fully in the image of God. Organizing seminars is one way, but it is the befriending of women, one cup of coffee at a time, and listening to the stories that women need to tell, where Kathy’s spirit of healing shines.
One of the most prominent ways Kathy champions for women is in her own community, The Refuge, an eclectic faith community she co-founded and co-pastors with her friend, Karl Wheeler. By living out loud and with transparency the strengths and hardships of copastoring a community with a nontraditional leadership model, Kathy is helping to pave the way for more women leaders to find their way in the body of Christ. When her years at a megachurch became stifling and stunting, Kathy embarked on finding a way to have community where it didn’t mean you had to hide who you were . That’s how she and Karl planted The Refuge, a messy yet lovely band of folks who do not debate whether or not women can lead. Women just are, and so are men. Their is no ambiguity or doctrinal sidestep. Women are free to be fully human and fully woman and the Holy Spirit is free to use and speak through whomever he will. Gender does not disqualify.
It tells a story that we often want to minimize – a story where men hold all of the power to “allow or permit” women to do or not do certain things. — Kathy Escobar
That makes Kathy a helluva a heretic.
Besides leading and pastoring, Kathy is also a prolific blogger and has gained a faithful readership during her years in the blogosphere. Her blogging voice is uncompromising as is her real-life voice:
“we let women…”
i’m sure many of you have heard – or said – some variation of this (i have said and heard both in all kinds of shapes & forms over the years): “we let women lead”, ”they let me lead”, “it’s so great that my church lets women lead.” “our church let a woman speak this weekend, isn’t that cool?”
i completely get the victory that happens when women are somehow freed, and that always makes me happy.
but these statements also make me cringe. like really cringe. and unfortunately they are so common that we accept them as progress, as something good.
but when people say it like this, it is revealing to what is going on underneath – and the telling assumptions that exist.
it tells a story that we often want to minimize – a story where men hold all of the power to “allow or permit” women to do or not do certain things.
a story where patriarchal systems & structures & influences trump the fullness of God’s spirit-at-work-in-women’s-lives. it’s a story that we’ve accepted as okay somehow. and it’s not okay. - kathy escobar
Kathy is way familiar with how not ok the story of “letting women” lead is. She has felt the
brunt of discrimination herself when a newly published book was pulled off shelves when the distributor (Lifeway?) realized she was a pastor. Nope. No women pastors allowed as that would be out of line with scripture. In other words, Kathy’s book was banned from that network because Kathy was living a life of heresy.
There’s so much more to say about my friend Kathy, but I will wrap it up here — Kathy Escobar is a passionate advocate for equality and justice. She lives it, teaches it, and inspires others to do the same.
Kathy’s latest book, Down We Go : Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus, is available on Amazon in print and on kindle. I highly recommend it!